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The Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy
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    The Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy
    • Online ISBN: 9781139095440
    • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182
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Book description

The Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy comprises over fifty specially commissioned essays by experts on the philosophy of this period. Starting in the late eighth century, with the renewal of learning some centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, a sequence of chapters take the reader through developments in many and varied fields, including logic and language, natural philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, and theology. Close attention is paid to the context of medieval philosophy, with discussions of the rise of the universities and developments in the cultural and linguistic spheres. A striking feature is the continuous coverage of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian material. There are useful biographies of the philosophers, and a comprehensive bibliography. The volume illuminates a rich and remarkable period in the history of philosophy and will be the authoritative source on medieval philosophy for the next generation of scholars and students alike.

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  • 39 - Religious authority and the state
    pp 537-550
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.002
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Religious authority and the state were conceived very differently in the Byzantine world, the Muslim world, and Latin Europe. Eastern Christendom drew its notion of sacred monarchy from Roman imperial ideology, christianized by Eusebius of Caesarea. Medieval Muslim views on religious authority and the state were quite different from Christian views. Muslims believed that God had given them the task of spreading Islam and, at the same time, subduing the whole world to their rule. The two genres of writing that explicitly discussed the relationship between religious authority and the state were religious jurisprudence and Advices to Kings. A separation between religion and politics may also be seen in the way in which, after the violent civil wars of early Islam, emphasized how unwise, and even impious, it is to engage in politics. The differences between religious authority and the state continued to play a major role in religious thought, political development and social behavior long after the Middle Ages.
  • 40 - Individual autonomy
    pp 551-564
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.003
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter encounters 'individual autonomy' in a survey of medieval philosophy, especially in connection with political philosophy. The wealth of sources for personal autonomy and related doctrines, produced a number of philosophical examinations of the relation between individual and community. John of Salisbury is one of the central figures in the emergence of a humanistic spirit associated with the so-called 'Renaissance of the Twelfth Century'. John of Paris proposes an extensive notion of the free sphere of individual action. Marsilius of Padua formulates a reconstruction of the origins of human association and of government that serves as an explanation of both the purpose of civil life and its relation to human nature. William of Ockham evinces a high level of confidence in the capacity of individuals to form judgments about fundamental truths for themselves, separate and distinct from communities or institutional authorities. These thinkers who are discussed above, are among the most important figures in medieval Latin political thought.
  • 41 - Law and nature
    pp 565-576
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.004
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The sources for what people know of medieval thinking on law and nature include the Church Fathers and scholastic theologians, as well as Roman legal writings. For the clusters of concepts for which people use the modern English words 'law' and 'nature', a series of Latin terms were used from the ancient world to the Middle Ages. Isidore's starting point was that all laws are either divine or human. Laws of nature fall into the divine category, but human laws vary from race to race, nation to nation, and people to people. Cicero began his De legibus by reflecting on what nature bestows on humanity, and on its implications for the purpose of life and the way human beings are able to form a natural society. Natural rights fall under the topic of law and nature, partly because of a confusion of usage that bedevils the technical terminology both here and elsewhere.
  • 42 - Poverty
    pp 577-592
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.005
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The seismic economic changes that occurred in Western and Central Europe roughly between 950 and 1300 and known to historians as the Agrarian and Commercial revolutions had profound, long-term ramifications on the life and societal structures of the continent. Peasant's migration towards the cities was accompanied by a simultaneous development that had been virtually unknown in the early Middle Ages: the problem of economic poverty. The new money economy, with its divergent effects upon rich and poor, gave rise to a series of religious responses that spurred the creation of new forms of religious life hitherto unseen in Western Europe. The Franciscans, approached the issue of poverty as essential to the very core of their identity. Still, some writers, and such figures as Francis of Assisi, insisted that humanity must do better; that creation ought to be able to sustain its creatures; and that those with power ought to strive for this higher end.
  • 43 - Just war
    pp 593-606
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.006
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Just war theories were the best compromise between human aggression and Christian pacifism that the church could devise. Just war theories of any age have the difficult dual purposes of restraining and justifying violence. Medieval just war theory is encapsulated in Augustine's four-word phrase: iusta bella ulciscuntur iniurias, 'just wars avenge injuries'. Augustine's thoughts on the just war were only a minor theme in his thought, constituting not so much a coherent position as a cluster of ideas, grouped around the avenging injuries concept. With the revival of learning and the rise of universities in the twelfth century, three disciplines emerged that considered war issues in detail: Roman law, canon law, and theology. The basic text of canon law was Gratian's Decretum, a systematic collection of legislation and opinions. In general, theologians placed more emphasis on the moral dimensions of warfare than canonists did, betrayed more suspicion of military service, and also placed greater emphasis on the individual soldier's responsibility.
  • 44 - The subject of the Aristotelian science of metaphysics
    pp 607-621
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.007
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Aristotelian science conveys understanding by showing the necessary relationship between immediately evident first principles and conclusions about the natural world. Metaphysics is central to the structure of Aristotelian science because it validates the principles and concepts assumed in the particular sciences. Avicenna agrees with Aristotle that the subject of metaphysics is entity as entity and its causes. Averroes agrees with Avicenna that metaphysics establishes the principles of the particular sciences, and like Avicenna he lists this as the last part of the study of metaphysics. Albert Zimmermann distinguishes several principal scholastic approaches to the Aristotelian science. Richard Rufus proposes that the subject of metaphysics is substance. According to Aquinas, God is related to metaphysics as the cause of its subject. Ockham, like Aquinas, starts from the psychological definition of science as an intellectual disposition concerning a demonstrated truth. The medieval debate over the subject of metaphysics illustrates the pervasive influence of Arabic thought on the Latin West.
  • 45 - Essence and existence
    pp 622-634
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.008
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter explores issues contributed to the extensive discussion of essence and existence by Latin thinkers in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. The famous scholastic dispute over the relationship between essence and existence has its roots in earlier Latin and Arabic discussions. It is agreed that in his youthful De ente et essentia, Thomas Aquinas defended a real distinction and composition of essence and existence (esse) in all finite beings, that is, a distinction that obtains in reality apart from the mind's consideration. In defending the real identity of essence and existence, Godfrey argues that a concrete noun, an abstract noun, and a verb do not signify really distinct things, but differ merely in their mode of signifying. The first kind of esse (esse essentiae) differs from the essence of a creature only conceptually, and so the essence can be said to be its esse taken in this sense.
  • 46 - Form and matter
    pp 635-646
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.009
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The first unquestionably big idea in the history of philosophy was the idea of form. Aristotelian commentators have been puzzled by form and matter for as long as there have been Aristotelian commentators. The conception of matter lends itself naturally to universal hylomorphism: the doctrine that every substance is a composite of form and matter. When matter is restricted to the corporeal realm, the notion of prime matter takes on a more precise meaning. It takes not just as the basement level of any hylomorphic hierarchy, but specifically as the stuff in virtue of which substances count as corporeal substances. Although the obscurity of prime matter is naturally captivating, of far greater significance to medieval philosophy is the conception of form, which serves as the chief analytic tool in nearly every area of Aristotelian thought. There are two basic kinds of form, substantial and accidental. The principal benefit of unitarianism is the work it does in accounting for substantial unity.
  • 47 - Realism
    pp 647-660
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.010
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Realism and nominalism were the major theoretical alternatives in the later Middle Ages concerning the reality of general objects. This chapter outlines the main medieval forms of realism, to indicate how the debate over universals and categories evolved. Moderate realists investigated the metaphysical composition of universals from a point of view that one can call 'intensional'. In the fourteenth century, William of Ockham argued that the common realist account of the relationship between universals and individuals was inconsistent with their being really identical. The theses of Walter Burley's ontology depend on what he takes to be necessary in order to defend a realist view of universals. Burley was persuaded that Ockham's arguments were valid, and he sought to escape from the resulting inconsistencies by moving toward Platonism. Wyclif's philosophy exercised an influence on the forms of later medieval realism. The metaphysics proper to the Oxford Realists is substantially a Platonic metaphysics, where universal essences, are the main kind of being.
  • 48 - Nominalism in the later Middle Ages
    pp 661-673
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.011
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Nominalism is a major movement in logic and philosophy during the later Middle Ages. There are two great periods of medieval nominalism: the twelfth century and the fourteenth century. The nominalism of the later Middle Ages embraces authors whose doctrines present important differences. The paramount question for understanding the nature of later medieval nominalism is, thus, the status of language and the signs that compose it. Ockham begins his Summa logicae with a discussion of the nature of a sign and its divisions. On the basis of the semantic theory Ockham develop the theory of mental language in an unprecedented way. After having posited in Summa logicae that the universal is a sign, principally a mental sign, Ockham criticize the idea of the universal as a substance. From late antiquity, there is a question of whether the categories are names, thoughts, or things. Late medieval nominalism, addressing this issue, criticizes realist accounts of the categories but transforms the problem.
  • 49 - Accidents and modes
    pp 674-686
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.012
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The doctrine of real accidents that Descartes rejects has medieval roots. This chapter explores how these roots formed and developed, how accidents came to be 'real', and how real accidents came to be perceived as a philosophical mistake. In his Categories, Aristotle lists several heads under which nouns and adjectives fall. The Categories distinguishes items along two further dimensions: whether they are 'said of' other items and whether they are 'in' other items. The translation of Aristotle's corpus into Latin together with both a number of Arabic commentaries and a number of independent Arabic treatises introduced a new complexity into an already complex story about accident. The doctrine of real accidents provided a solution to a number of problems in theology, physics and semantics. 'Mode', like 'real accident', is a scholastic term. The doctrine of modes, taken together with the view that all change is creation, annihilation, or local motion, is promising as an account of the extended universe.
  • 51 - Faith and reason
    pp 707-719
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.014
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The epistemology of religious belief, a central topic among medieval philosophers, shows no signs of disappearing from the public's consciousness or the philosophers' agenda. A few preliminary, terminological remarks are in order, first about reason, then about faith. This chapter supposes that both faith and reason are propositional, if only because to suppose otherwise makes it hard to see what tensions there are between them. The eleventh century provides us with two distinctive Christian contributors to the debate about faith and reason: Peter Damian and Anselm of Canterbury. Thomas Aquinas retrofitted much of Aristotle's conceptual framework to serve Christian philosophical theology, while recognizing that the content of Aristotelian thought is in tension with theology. Aquinas's psychological theory relies on a fundamental distinction between the human intellect and the human will. In 1277, Stephen Tempier, the bishop of Paris, issued a list of 219 condemned propositions in philosophy and theology, threatening excommunication to anyone who defended or even listened to them.
  • 52 - Mysticism
    pp 720-734
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.015
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Current scholars generally behave as though the medieval traditions of mysticism and philosophy in the Latin West have nothing to do with each other. Given the general description of medieval mysticism, it is both possible and useful to distinguish between two subcategories within it, namely, the apophatic tradition and the affective tradition. The apophatic mystic tradition reaches into the Middle Ages from Plotinus through pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and John Scottus Eriugena. A prominent theme is running throughout this tradition involves the respective roles of intellect and will in attaining the end. The affective tradition countered the perception that materiality was inherently negative by placing a heavy emphasis on the Incarnation: if the supremely good God could take on flesh, then flesh itself could not be evil. One might expect medieval mystics to come down on the side of contemplation in the age-old debate about the roles of contemplation and activity in the good life.
  • 53 - Arguments for God’s existence
    pp 735-748
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.016
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Kant named the three main sorts of argument for God's existence 'ontological', 'cosmological', and 'teleological'. 'Ontological' arguments are deductive and have no empirical premises. Medieval philosophers developed the temporal regress and 'contingency' cosmological arguments and also retailed Aristotle's argument from motion. Aristotle's argument for a first, unmoved mover that is the ultimate source of motion was championed by al-Fārābī, Maimonides, Aquinas, and hosts of lesser lights. The first of Aquinas's Five Ways gives the core of this argument. Newtonian physics makes the claim that continued inertial motion is not the sort of thing to require a physical explanation. Thereafter, defenders of the argument from motion had to take their chances on the field of metaphysics. The First Way does not reason that causal series must be finite and, therefore, there must be a first cause. In a per se series, every cause other than a first is caused to act by another member of the series.
  • 54 - Describing God
    pp 749-760
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.017
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The philosophical problem of describing God arises at the intersection of two different areas of inquiry. The Christian tradition, for example, faces distinctive problems that arise in understanding and describing the triune nature of God. Anselm's approach to the problem of describing God offers a resolution that does not depend on the more elaborate semantic theories to which later writers would appeal. Classical Arabic philosophy puts particular emphasis on the claim that God is intellect. Both al-Fārābī and Avicenna connect God's intellectual nature with his immateriality. For Moses Maimonides, it is the oneness of God, his uniqueness and simplicity, that systematically frustrates our ability to represent God in thought and to speak meaningfully about God. Aquinas accommodates both affirmative and negative predication about God. The essential feature of Aquinas's theory of analogy is that a single term is predicated per prius et posterius: of God in a prior way and of creatures in a posterior way.
  • 55 - Providence
    pp 761-772
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.018
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Two texts framed medieval Christian discussions that God exercises providential care and governance over the created order: the biblical Book of Wisdom and Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. The recovery of Aristotle's natural philosophy in the Latin West provided a vocabulary for analyzing providence. The first book of Alexander's Summa theologica defends the idea of a providential order. Like Alexander, Aquinas seeks to reconcile God's providential governance with Aristotelian causality. Toward the end of the thirteenth century, Aquasparta compiled a set of disputed questions on providence. With the onset of the following century, John Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and their successors at Oxford adopted a number of ideas that greatly strained thirteenth-century views about providence. Aristotelian causality was undergoing scrutiny in the fourteenth century in ways that made the thirteenth-century approaches to providence less feasible. A way of conceiving the relationship between God and human beings was taking shape that could substitute for the thirteenth-century view, namely, covenantal theology.
  • 56 - The problem of evil
    pp 773-784
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521762182.019
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The problem of evil is raised by the combination of certain traditional theistic beliefs and the acknowledgment that there is evil in the world. Augustine struggled with the question of the metaphysical status of evil; his ultimate conclusion, that evil is a privation of being, was shared by most later medieval philosophers. in Gregory's view it is so difficult to understand how a just and benevolent providence could allow good things to happen to good people. On views common to many medieval authors, the genus within which the greatest goods for human beings fall is personal relationship. In varying ways, on typical medieval views, suffering is understood as one important means by which the worst thing for human beings is warded off and the best thing for human beings is achieved. Medicinal regimes are withheld from people only in case they are so ill that the therapy cannot do them any good.